Defying the odds - Dana-Gaye Weller heads to Rio after doctors said she wouldn't live past eight

August 30, 2016
Jermaine Barnaby/Freelance Photographer Dana-Gaye Weller at a Jamaica Paralympic Association press conferenceheld last Thursday.
@Normal:Paralympic athlete Alphanso Cunningham (left) giving a few advice to newcomer Dana-Gaye Weller who is the newest on the team of athletes scheduled to take part in the Paralympic Games in Rio.

When Dana-Gaye Weller was leaving Galilee Basic School, a senior teacher at the school dismissed any thought of her mother, Joan Blair, sending her to the then fancied Excelsior Preparatory.

"I remember the principal saying that Excelsior doesn't want anybody who cannot run, skip or dance," Blair recounted.

The remark ignited defiance in Blair and she embarked on preparing Weller for the odd stares and lewd laughters she might receive throughout her schooling.




"When she was about to start Windward Road All-Age, I said to her, 'Darling, you are special and you might see people staring at you or laughing at you don't matter them. It's because you are unique'," Blair said.

The mother told THE STAR that she discovered that her daughter, three years old at the time, was stumbling while she was walking.

"This was very strange for a child who was almost like a tom- boy. I asked my mother what was wrong. Why is she making one step and falling?" Blair wanted to know. Blair's parents didn't have an answer to those questions and the doctors at the Bustamante Hospital for Children were similarly clueless when Blair took her to the hospital the following day. After a couple of weeks of testing and re-testing, the doctors at the children's hospital concluded that it was a rare disease called muscular dystrophy.

The doctors said that Weller wouldn't live past the age of eight, but Blair continued to have faith in her daughter and it seems to have taught Weller determination.

"I think I got my determination from my parents. They never gave up on me, even when the doctors say that I wouldn't live past eight," Weller said.

Not only did Weller learn to live with her disability, she found a way to excel in the classroom and in the field of sport.

Today Weller, now 28, along with Alphanso Cunningham and Shane Hudson will depart for the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Weller, entering her first international competition, is to compete in club throw F51 at the same stadium where Usain Bolt and Elaine Thompson won two individual gold medals in the 100 and 200 meters.

"I will be participating in the club Throw F51 and I am looking forward to doing my best," Weller said.




Weller, however, is more than an athlete. She told THE STAR that she goes about daily trying to be an inspiration to others, and is a testament that disability does not mean inability.

"I am a recent graduate from the University of the West Indies where I majored in psychology and I chose this field because I want to inspire people," Weller said.

"I am also interested in sports psychology, as I have noticed from an early age that people find it easy to tell me their problems."

Weller also works as a teacher and guidance counselor at the Genesis Academic School for people with disabilities.

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